LIV Adelaide began Thursday night (for those of us here in the U.S.). It’s an event teeming with potential. Australian fans are hungry for professional golf tournaments, and LIV is giving them one that also happens to have a meaningful group of Australians in the field. Those are good ingredients for a successful golf tournament.
I haven’t watched a single shot of a LIV Golf event so far in 2023, but I was actually pretty eager to tune into LIV Adelaide. That is, until I saw a tweet from LIV Communications explaining that, for the most part, players from the same teams would be grouped together. It was a stark reminder that creating a competitive environment is not high on LIV’s priority list.
Like many other golf fans, I’m turned off by free drops, instances of backstopping, caddies exchanging club selection information, preferred lies, and any other features that undermine the competitive integrity of a golf tournament. LIV could have declined to give players those things and ramped up the intensity. Instead, they’ve kept all of those competitive compromises and elected to pair teammates together so they can fist bump each other when they make a birdie. Cool.
To be fair, I suspect LIV’s rationale is that this is allowing for the creation of an all-Aussie group, which should attract a large Australian crowd. At the same time, the more LIV veers from creating an intense competition, the more the tournaments feel like parades instead of a top-flight golf tournaments. Eventually, LIV must shake the perception that its events are exhibitions. Do I think pairing teammates together will result in widespread cheating and impact who wins the tournament? No. Do I think pairing teammates together decreases the intensity and makes the golf tournament feel more like an exhibition match? Absolutely.
Over on the PGA Tour this week, the competitive spirit is even bleaker. Paresh Amin, a golfer with zero recent competitive golf success, is teeing it up in the Zurich Classic, a partner event that distributes full FedEx Cup points. Amin does not have any tournament results in an OWGR-sanctioned event. Apparently he plays on the GPro Tour, so I checked out his stats on the tour’s website. Of his 28 results, 27 are either a MC or a WD, and the other result is a T79 over two days of play.
Since players in the Zurich Classic play fourballs and foursomes, it’s impossible to calculate Amin’s Thursday score, but he shot well above 80. He and teammate Michael Thompson lead just one team, the John Daly–David Duval squad, another group that should not have the opportunity to win FedEx Cup points. Keep in mind that each member of the winning team at the Zurich Classic receives 400 FedEx Cup points, a total that would propel a player into ~75th place in the standings.
Capturing and growing a viewing audience is fierce competition. Sports fans have a plethora of options. When the Dallas Mavericks, a few weeks ago, sat many of their starters in order to purposely lose a game, the NBA fined the Mavericks $750,000. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver understands that while sound effects and entertaining halftime shows are additive to the viewing experience, ultimately the product is competitive basketball.
When will professional golf leagues start acknowledging that their product is competitive golf?